So in a matchup of 25-year-old pitchers looking to rebound from poor 2011 seasons, the Orioles’ Brian Matusz took a big step forward and the Yankees’ Phil Hughes struggled again and gave up more homers.
No one is saying Matusz is fully back, but it looked like he was making progress earlier this year but not getting the results to show for that. Over his last two starts, he is now also getting results.
The Orioles have won his last two outings after losing 13 straight Matusz starts and the lefty got his first win last night since last June 6, ending the second-longest losing streak in Orioles history at 12 consecutive decisions, one shy of Mike Boddicker’s club record.
In those last two outings, Matusz has given up just one earned run and 10 hits over 12 1/3 innings.
The questions about his fastball velocity now seem way back in the rear-view mirror, and the command and control of his secondary pitches is coming back. How he commands those pitches will have as much to say about his season as any radar gun readings.
Beating the Yankees in New York - a team that entered last night ranked first in the American League in homers, second in OBP and third in runs - was an impressive feat. The Yankees were averaging 5.5 runs per game, but got just one over 6 1/3 innings against Matusz.
It was a night that should continue to boost his confidence and show everyone that he is now trending upward with his performance and continuing to put the disaster that was his 2011 season further in the past.
A return to form of Matusz would be some of the best news the 2012 Orioles could get. So far, so good.
Meanwhile, while we sometimes think only the Orioles’ young pitchers fail to develop and live up to expectations, look at Hughes. He is now 1-4 with an ERA of 7.48. He has no quality starts among his five outings and has given up seven homers over 21 2/3 innings.
Two years ago, Hughes was an 18-game winner.
Meanwhile, two of New York’s top young pitchers are struggling at Triple-A. Dellin Betances, a 24-year-old righty ranked by Baseball America as the Yankees’ third-best prospect, is 1-2 with an ERA of 7.25 over five starts.
Lefty Manny Banuelos, New York’s No. 2-ranked prospect, is 0-1 with an ERA of 10.13 over two starts and is now on the disabled list with a sore back.
Sometimes young pitchers take steps backward - and it happens in places other than just Baltimore.
But, for now at least, that is no longer the case with Matusz. It is too soon to say that those that gave up on him will for certain be wrong. But it’s beginning to look like they will.